Drop Zone: St. Mere Eglise

By: Larry Selman

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Editions and Sizes

Original Oil on Canvas - 30" x 48"

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Description

As part of the massive Allied invasion of Normandy Operation Overlord, three airborne divisions would be dropped behind enemy lines to sow confusion in the German rear and prevent panzer reinforcements from reaching the beaches. The landing of paratroopers behind the Atlantic Wall on the night of June 6, 1944 would gain a strategic advantage to make the landing of the Allied forces successful.


During 1944 there were frequent allied air raids on the town of St. Mere Eglise and the night of June 5th - 6th was no different. Around 1:00 AM a house in the square caught fire, possibly caused by one of the marker flares dropped by the pathfinders. The alarm bell rang and the townspeople attempted to put out the fire by forming a long line, passing buckets from the pump in the square to the fire. The German occupiers stood around in the church courtyard and watched the civilians attempt to put out the fire. At this point two more planes pass over head and parachutes were seen in the night sky and fell on a town in total chaos. The Germans opened fire, shooting paratroopers as they came into the fire light. Killing or wounding many as they descended to earth. The paratroopers were scattered through and around the town, landing in trees, house roofs and two on the church steeple.


The town was well marked by the pathfinders and paratroopers from the 82nd and 101st continued to fall in and around St. Mere Eglise throughout the night. In the dark early hours of D-Day, this confusion was achieved well enough, as nearly every airborne unit missed its drop zone, creating a kaleidoscope of small-unit combat. Outside the town Lieutenant Colonel Ed Krause commander for the 3rd Battalion of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment gathered 158 men. The Americans encircled the town and captured St. Mere Eglise at dawn, taking about thirty prisoners. At 04:30 the stars and stripes were raised over the town and St. Mere Eglise was the first town to be liberated in France.